Stephen Ettinger opened his 2016 campaign at the Bear Mountain Canada Cup on a sunny, windy day in Victoria, British Columbia. A cruel opening lap on a slick track put Ettinger on the back foot within minutes of the start, but the tough 26 year-old fought his way back to a redeeming ninth place. Canadians Raphael Gagné, Derek Zandstra and Léandre Bouchard took the top three honors.
A beautiful day for bike racing greeted the racers on the start line at the Bear Mountain Resort. Sunny skies and wind dried up a wet course from the overnight rain just enough to create a challenging course.
“It was full grease in the trees,” said Ettinger. “Some sharp rocks started to come out – there were some flat tires out there. It was better than racing in cold rain though.”
Ettinger is not normally one of the fastest starts in the grid, but today’s bad start was compounded by an unfortunate crash within two minutes of the start.
“It was just one of those days,” said Ettinger. “I had two crashes in the first lap. The first was a silly little crash in traffic that happened when someone didn’t yield before we had to single up and then t-boned me. I went from eighth place to somewhere around 25th. It was a ‘is this really happening’ moment when my bike went flying off the side of the hill. Rubbin’s racing though.”
Despite the early setback, Ettinger started to find his groove and was moving his way through the field when he hit the ground again before heading out for lap two of six.
“Right at the end of the first lap, I put my front wheel into a rock or hole in the final technical section on the descent,” explained Ettinger. “I did a full scorpion over the handlebars and landed really hard on some sharp rocks. I tore my knee up and my helmet came loose.”
The hard landing initially took its toll on Ettinger, but he was eventually able to shake it off and ride himself back into the race.
“I started to feel good in the middle of the race,” said Ettinger. “I had a surge and started to pick people off. I was getting back into a rhythm but I was never able to regain my confidence descending after that crash. It shook me up, but that’s how it goes.”
Ettinger had bigger goals in mind for his first race of the season, but he won’t be leaving Victoria without some positive notes from the race.
“I had some good sensations despite having a bum knee for most of the race,” noted Ettinger. “I had that good deep fitness sensation the whole race. I’m not sure how that would have translated had I been at the front of the race, but I gave it everything I had. I was tired but I still had some gas.”
With Bonelli Park, race two of the Kenda Cup series, just one week away, Ettinger is extremely happy with his equipment but will need to make a few minor adjustments as he becomes more familiar with his suspension and drivetrain.
“It was the first weekend on the Fox suspension,” explained Ettinger. “It feels great but I need to dial in the pressure and rebound settings. The Di2 was amazing. It was so good, it felt great. It was the first weekend of racing so there are some things I still need to get used to.”
“Overall, Bear Mountain was a good place to race bikes,” added Ettinger. “There were some redeeming things that came out of the weekend. I was really impressed with the equipment. And my mechanic, Daimo, and my girlfriend, Corrine, went above and beyond today.”
Ettinger will spend the week at home in Bellingham before heading south to San Dimas, California on Friday where he will join the rest of his Ridebiker Alliance teammates for the weekend of racing that includes both XC and short track races.